Ready to grow Broccoli?
It’s time to learn how to grow this incredibly healthy vegetable in your garden. Broccoli is a cool-season plant that loves soaking the sun, it is rich in nutrients and 100% worth growing.
There are two main types of broccoli that we grow in the UK:
Named after Calabria in Italy. The word broccoli comes from the Latin word bracchium meaning 'strong arm' or 'branch'.
To add a little confusion supermarkets simply call this broccoli and whilst it is a variety of broccoli, it is strictly calabrese. Single large (10cm - 20cm) green heads that are milder in taste. It is not winter hardy, calabrese won't survive frosts and they should be sown in mid spring.
Longer stems with lots of smaller heads and much more flavour. Sprouting broccoli is hardy and can be sown over winter for an early spring crop or can be sown in spring for a summer crop.
For a late summer harvest sow your broccoli in May. For a spring harvest you will need to sow in July and overwinter them. You can sow direct to the growing site but as with most brassicas it is much preferable to sow them in seed modules as they don't like root disturbance.
Sow two or three seeds per module and cover them with soil. It is easier to spray the soil so the seeds are not washed out. Thin the weaker plants out as they germinate and grow so you are left with a single plant per module.
It's important to keep your seedlings properly watered before you plant them out in the garden. You are better to under rather than overwater your young plants. This may sound odd but making the roots search for water helps to develop a better root system. Just be careful to not let them dry out to the point of no return!
Once your plants are about 10cm - 15cm tall they can be planted outside. They will need hardening off if they've been grown indoors as the sudden change can be quite a shock.
Spacing determines the size of the head produced. Wide spacing of 45cm in rows 60cm apart will produce very large heads whilst 40cm will produce medium sized heads. Plant your seedlings in a hole approximately the size of the seedling plug. You need to push the soil in around the roots firmly with your fingers to get good contact with the soil.
Slugs and snails love young seedlings and can quickly demolish them. Sprinkling crushed up seashells or eggs shells will deter them from coming anywhere near.
Broccoli will need watering every 10 - 14 days on dry weather.
With most varieties of calabrese you get two crops from a single plant. Initially a central dome will form, after this is harvested the plant will produce numerous smaller side shoots.
Using a sharp knife, cut off the head before the florets begin to open, and while the head is still firm. Don’t dig up the plant as the cut stalk will produce new heads.
Freshly harvested broccoli keeps for about 7 - 10 days in the fridge. It will tell you when it's time to be using it as it will start to go soft. To freeze it you will need to blanche it first. Cut all the woody stems and boil for 2-3 mins before laying out to dry. Freeze immediately.